The New Year started out with a big celebrity bang in the Palm Springs Valley. Just a diamond’s throw from Rancho Mirage, the newly branded Palm Springs Film Awards—part of the 28th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival—unspooled in high Hollywood fashion at the Palm Springs Convention Center.

Mary Hart was again the “hostess with the moistest” at the sold-out black tie affair, which saw some 2,400 people sit down for a three-course dinner while high honors were doled out in style by and to a bevvy of Tinsel town A-listers.

To my mind—yes, I was happily ensconced in my fourth-row seat at a table with friends from Rancho Mirage—it was the most stellar parade of cinema luminaries since Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, and Sandra Bullock appeared in the desert a few years ago.

Hanks was here again, accepting the Icon Award. All the other glamor guys and gals—in no particular order—were Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton, and Jeff Nichols from the film “Loving;” Janelle Monáe and Mahershala Ali from the pics “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures;” Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman from “Lion;” Andrew Garfield from both “Silence” and “Hacksaw Ridge;” Laura Dern from “The Founder;” Octavia Spencer and Jim Parsons, also from “Hidden Figures;” Natalie Portman from “Jackie;” Amy Adams from “Arrival” and “Nocturnal Animals;” Casey Affleck from “Manchester by the Sea” (who was awarded his prize by Sir Ben Kingsley); Annette Bening and Warren Beatty (a Hollywood royalty couple if ever there was one); Laura Linney; and funny lady Jane Lynch presenting an award to the gang from “La La Land”: writer-director Damien Chazelle, composer Justin Hurwitz, and star Ryan Gosling.

As was repeated often during the night, the Film Awards are a bellwether of what will go down on Oscar Night at the Academy Awards. While most of these folks will surely be nominated on January 24, it is seen as highly likely that on February 26 “La La Land” will be named Best Picture, and Best Actress and Best Actor will go, respectively, to Portman and Affleck.

There were many references made to the sun and stars of the Palm Springs Valley by the stars of Hollywood during the proceedings. One has to wonder how many of them stay at Rancho Mirage’s deluxe resorts when they are here. After all, our town is where the poshest accommodations are. Many celebs mentioned coming back to the desert soon for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. I bet you anything many of them will lay their head down on our pillows.

See you at the movies!

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